Palmyra-Macedon's Mike Karns has coached a lot of talented players in his 15 years with the girls soccer program — but he's confident that Sam Gagliano is the best player to wear the red and white in his tenure.
"The kid has all the tools," Karns said. "When you have a kid that has great skills to go along with great speed, you don't get kids like that too often."
Gagliano finished the 2013 season with 34 goals and three assists and is leaving the Red Raiders as the all-time leader in career goals with 87. She is the Daily Messenger's 2013 Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
The senior just completed her fifth year on the varsity soccer team. Gagliano increased her production in every year she played. She scored four goals as an eighth grader, nine as a freshman, 18 as a sophomore, 22 as a junior and 34 as a senior.
"My coach helped me work on finishing every practice," Gagliano said. "It was just a lot of practice of how you finish, that's all we focused on. It started sophomore year."
Karns said Gagliano's exceptional speed and killer shot helped her score a lot of goals.
Fellow Red Raider Emily Blazey assisted on many of those goals, finishing with 20 assists on the season. Gagliano said they always knew where to find each other on the field since they've played together since age six.
Gagliano needed 31 goals in 2013 to break Shannon Spusta's career goals record from 2009, and she set the mark in a win over Waterloo.
Pal-Mac shared the Finger Lakes East League title with Wayne, going 11-4-2 overall and 7-1 in the league. The Red Raiders clinched a share of the title with a 1-0 win over Newark on Oct. 15. Gagliano scored the game-winning goal in overtime off a direct kick from 20 yards out.
"It felt awesome beating Newark to clinch," she said. "We just wish we could beat Wayne again to be the only champion."
Gagliano thrived against all levels of competition.
"When we played the weaker teams, if they didn't mark her and take her out of the game, she destroyed them," Karns said. "She had six goals against Red Creek, five goals against Waterloo twice, they didn't mark her. When we played better teams like Greece Odyssey, they marked her and Sam still scored two. We played Aquinas, and Sam scored one and almost had a couple others."
Some teams put three girls around Gagliano, meaning other Red Raiders were open.
The senior was named the Finger Lakes East's Player of the Year and made the All-League first team for a fourth time.
Gagliano said she's going to miss the experience of being a part of the Pal-Mac soccer team, which she said is just like a family. She did have some actual family on the team too, playing with her younger sister Sydney the last two seasons.
Page 2 of 2 - The daughter of Scott and Wendi Gagliano is committed to play soccer at Canisius College next fall. She is planning to study childhood education. Gagliano also is vice president of student council and is a member of the varsity club. Karns said she is ready to play as a freshman.
The coach added that she'll be missed by the program.
"Not only is she a great player, but she's a great teammate and a lot of the younger kids really look up to her," Gagliano said. "Even some of the kids on the JV team were in tears at our banquet when I was talking about Sam. The really young ones idolize her. They want to be like Sam."